Port budget would fund full-time fire position

Addition that is seen as essential to maintaining service, insurance, debt payments add up to proposed tax hike
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff

The Port Washington Fire Department will get its second full-time employee next year under a proposed 2019 budget recommended by the Finance and License Committee last week.

“If we want to keep service 24 hours a day, seven days a week, we have to hire a full-time person,” City Administrator Mark Grams said, noting the new employee would be a firefighter/paramedic.

“The need is especially for the emergency medical system program. We’ve lost a few people in that area, and everyone’s adding more EMS services so it’s tough to find people to replace them.”

The recommendation comes almost two months after Fire Chief Mark Mitchell said he was having so much trouble ensuring there is a paramedic to staff the ambulance around the clock that he wanted to hire as many as three full-time firefighter-paramedics.

The Police and Fire Commission recommended seeking one position next year with the others phased in over time.

The additional firefighter is one of the major additions to the proposed budget, Grams said.

The remainder of the operating budget increase is largely due to increases in wages and fringe benefits, he said, noting that health insurance premiums are estimated to increase 15% to 17%.

“We’re still trying to negotiate it down,” he said. 

The proposed operating budget is $9.7 million, up 1.9% from last year’s $9.51 million budget.

The tax levy needed to support the operating budget is expected to increase 3%, to $3.33 million, Grams said, while the debt service levy will increase about 11%, to $2.42 million.

“This is the one year hit we have for the debt service,” he said. “It should level off after this.”

The overall tax levy would then increase about 6.4%, to $5.45 million, Grams said.

But because of the growth in the city’s tax base, the projected tax rate will likely increase only about 4%, he said Tuesday, adding he has not calculated the rate yet.

There are still a few details to the budget that haven’t been finalized, Grams said, including the health insurance.

The city hasn’t decided whether it will do a borrowing next year, Grams said.

“That will probably depend on the projects that are approved and the grants that are available,” he said.

For example, the budget doesn’t include funds for flood mitigation efforts the city is considering, Grams said.

The fire department is also looking into grant funding for some equipment purchases, and the city is also considering what additional work it can do on the north breakwater.

The Common Council is expected to get its first look at the proposed budget when it meets at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 7.

The public hearing on the budget is set for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 20.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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